Dozens of ducks: nature or nuisance?

Maria Cuellar says she enjoys taking care of her duck babies, but code enforcement says woman's effort to feed the birds must stop.

January 16, 2014|By Beau Nicolette
  • Maria Cuellar looks after ducks that have come to eat food in the driveway of her home. Cuellar has been feeding ducks daily at her home for the past 10 years and has recently been issued a warning citation by the city to stop feeding them.
Maria Cuellar looks after ducks that have come to eat food… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

It was dusk when the two ducks started circling the quiet residential street of Cheryl Drive in Huntington Beach.

They eyed Maria Cuellar's seed-strewn driveway before touching down for dinner.

Soon, five more swooped down.

Then 10.



After a few minutes, nearly 50 ducks packed the driveway, pecking, waddling and scrambling for seed.

With the driveway crowded with dining ducks, late-comers used the street as a runway and taxied in for their share of the nightly meal.

"Come on you guys, come on babies," Cuellar said, scurrying them out of the street.

Cuellar has been feeding the ducks in her driveway every day for nearly 10 years. She diligently goes out each day at dusk to lay a swath of scratch and bowls of water.


But on Jan. 8, she was visited by code enforcement and told to stop.

"I'm not doing anything bad though," she said. "I'm trying to help and feed those birds like Mother Nature.They're my babies, I want those animals to eat because I know they're hungry."

After she was told to stop the nightly feeding, Cuellar said she was beyond distraught.

Through tears she talked of one duck that was "crying" and came to her shoes, asking for food. The other ducks quacked and circled the driveway, wondering when dinner would be served.

"They know me, they trust me, they know I'm there to feed (them), they know I'm there to protect (them)," Cuellar said. "They know I'll always be here, if it's possible, and they give me the chance, until the day I die."

But her ritual was declared a nuisance.

Senior code enforcement officer Rich Massi said his division was told by police that they received a complaint about the number of ducks that gather.

The reporting code enforcement officer watched Cuellar cover her driveway in seed and determined that the food on the sidewalk and the number of ducks were creating a problem.

The issued warning read, "You must stop feeding birds in your driveway. You must not spread any bird seed on your driveway as this creates nuisance conditions for your house and your neighbors."

Massi said the seed spills onto the sidewalk and makes the walkway slippery and therefore is a safety hazard. Also, the excessive number of ducks was "inhibiting the enjoyment" of other properties.

"If she kept it to a minimum spot on the driveway, that would not be a problem," Massi said. He also recommended that Cuellar use her backyard and less seed.

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